The Wasilla Warriors, the third-ranked team in the state, bested the Juneau-Douglas High School boys cagers for the second night in a row on Friday, 57-37. The Crimson Bears reversed their fortunes with a 51-40 win over the fifth-ranked Palmer Moose on Saturday.
Again the Warriors’ Division 1 prospect Connor Devine swatted a dozen shots as the Crimson Bears drought from outside made them more susceptible to bringing the rock to the rim.
“We had lots of good looks,” JDHS coach Robert Casperson said. “It was one of those nights, and one of those series, where things just wouldn’t fall through for us.”
After trailing by just three at the half, 21-18, the Crimson Bears were outscored 36-19 in the second half.
Using dribble penetration and pulling up for jumpers in the lane, the Crimson Bears found a lid on the basket. They also found Devine in the paint. The Wasilla mainstay scored 13 points but had another game high in rebounds and blocked shots.
“We could certainly beat their guards off the dribble and curling around screens,” Casperson said. “We got good looks but just didn’t knock them down.”
The Crimson Bears used a full court defense to stay even in the first half. The Warriors pressured on the perimeter and used Devine’s presence in the paint to take more chances defensively. JDHS experimented with a five guard line up, going with Lance Ibesate, Tony Yadao, Austin Shoemaker, Alec Calloway and Phillip Fenumiai. Calloway got the challenge of defending Devine and, according to coaches, the first ever block out foul for clearing space on the Warriors center.
“I was proud of him for that,” Casperson said. “It was a good block out.”
Austin Shoemaker led the Crimson Bears with 11 points, Lance Ibesate added eight, Alex Calloway six, Tony Yadao and Aquino Brinson three apiece, Jackson Lehnhart, Gary Speck, and Bruce Jones two each.
JDHS hit 3-8 at the charity stripe, Wasilla went 14-18. Devine and Braydon Kuiper had 13 apiece for the Warriors, and Dane Kuiper added 11.
“We never quit,” Casperson said. “Our guys kept battling and working. We just missed a lot of shots. We have to tip our hat to them, we just got beat.”
On Saturday the Crimson Bears outscored Palmer 18-6 in the fourth quarter to beat the Moose 51-44.
“It was nice to see we could win on the road,” Casperson said. “It was a great way to end the road trip.”
The Moose had quarter leads of 7-6, 18-16, and 34-33 before the Crimson Bears picked up their defensive pressure.
Yadao was credited by coaches for defending the Moose’s Connor Booney, who had scored 40 points in his last game.
The Crimson Bears overall team defensive pressure in the fourth quarter wore the home court off the Moose and many of Palmer’s shots were short, according to coaches.
Ibesate and Yadao led with 12 points apiece, Calloway nine, Fenumiai six each, Ryan Kelly and Jeffrey Pusich four apiece and Gary Speck and Austin Shoemaker two each.
JDHS hit 10-11 at the charity stripe while Palmer went 7-16. James Neisbit led the Moose with 11 points.
The Crimson Bears began the road trip with a 67-60 loss to the Service Cougars and a 64-44 loss on Thursday to the Warriors.
“We are learning,” Casperson said. “That which does not kill us will make us stronger.”